Wednesday, May 31, 2017

David Wagner - More Than Just Jurgen Klopp’s Mate

I want to start by giving a huge congratulations to everyone at Huddersfield Town. I love a good underdog story and to see the Terriers go from a lower half Championship team to a Premier League team is enough to put a smile on the face of most football fans. Today’s post though will be about the man who has masterminded this turn around, David Wagner.

Now this post might sting a bit for me to write as Town did knock my club Sheffield Wednesday out of the playoffs in the semis but I felt almost compelled to write about the genius who absolutely dominated The Owls, ripped out my heart and stamped on it like a cigarette butt in the rain...that was almost poetic

The German joined Huddersfield on November 5th 2015 with the Yorkshire club 18th in the league. I think some Town fans thought it was a little harsh to sack then manager Chris Powell who had spent just over a year in the job and to replace him with an unknown foreign manager was a risky move. Clubs like Charlton had been stung previously by bringing in bosses from abroad.

But the chance of signing Jurgen Klopp’s right hand man almost seemed too good to be true and the clubs chairman and greeting card enthusiast Dean Hoyle was very keen on bringing Wagner in. and what an inspired appointment it has been.

Since coming in he has revolutionised the way Town play, describing it less like “rock and roll football” (as Klopp likes to call it) and more like “Terrier football”. In his words they aren’t the biggest dog but are aggressive, quick and never give up. A very true statement when you watch them play.

Huddersfield this season finished third in the possession table with an average of 55.7% possession. The only clubs ahead of them were fellow playoff challengers Fulham (59.1%) and Reading (57.4%). Opting for more shorter passes and regularly using a 4-2-3-1 formation, they pack out the midfield so there is always a passing option available.

Wagner also like his fullbacks to push further forward, offering more options in attack. Terriers right back and captain Tommy Smith has the most assists for the club this season with 10, joint second in the league overall! When they were chasing a goal against Sheffield Wednesday in the play off semi final second leg, Smith pushed much further forward, almost changing the formation to a 3-4-3. This added pressure was the undoing of the Owls as Tom Lees ended up breaking my heart by scoring the equalising own goal…
~ We still love you though Lees ~

It’s not all about their attack though as they’re just as adept with their defensive responsibilities. With the amount of huge German’s that Huddersfield have, it’s no surprise that they are dominant in the air defensively, rarely conceding goals from set pieces. Their best form of defense though is their possession of the ball. To put it simply, the opposition can’t score if they don’t have the ball.

That’s not to say that Wagner’s tactic is perfect. Despite not conceding many goals Huddersfield have also struggled to score goals this season. I mean it says it all when you finish 5th in the league but with a -2 goal difference. This isn’t down to a lack of a goalscorer, more down to a lack of clear cut chances being created.

Even in the playoffs Huddersfield only really created three clear cut chances in three games. The first being Izzy Brown’s ghost run into the box in which he forced Keiren Westwood into a world class save, the second which resulted in Tom Lees’ own goal and the final chance being Izzy Brown’s open net miss against Reading in the final.
~ Again Lees we love you, don’t ever leave us! ~

Obviously though he’s still loved by the Kirklees Stadium faithful. He’s managed to instill belief into the players which transfers into the fans which in turn transfers back into the players and so on and so forth. It’s a wonderful cycle to be in.

Transfers have been another huge plus for the German. He’s made some of the shrewdest signings of the Championship season. The likes of Michael Hefele and Chris Lowe were brought in for free and been influential figures in Huddersfield's promotion.

As have Van La Parra, brought in £765,000 and Schindler who was brought in for a club record fee of £1.8 million. All those purchases were highly rated at their previous clubs and will be huge players for Town in next season’s campaign.

Wagner’s use of the loan market has also been hugely successful for his side. Pacey wide man Kachunga, Aussie Mooy, Penalty hero Ward and wonder kid Izzy Brown have been key players for Huddersfield this season, now that they’re up I imagine ze German will want to make some of their moves permanent.

I’ve also been made aware that David Wagner’s appointment had a lot of meaning to the older Terriers fans. Supporters of a certain age will remember that Bill Shankly left Town to go to Liverpool despite The Reds being in a lower league position. Wagner turning down the opportunity to be Klopp’s assistant at Liverpool and become the boss at Huddersfield felt like a nice gesture to some of the older generation.

Questions were raised on whether he would stay after this season and now that their up I can’t see any reason for him to leave. If promotion wasn’t achieved then maybe he’d have left. With clubs like Crystal Palace and possibly Watford sniffing from the Premier League as well as Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull looking for new bosses, he may have been tempted away.

Truth be told I can’t see him staying at Huddersfield for the rest of his career. I could actually see him managing a high profile European side. Maybe not Real Madrid or Juventus but maybe Napoli, Sevilla or possibly a return to Dortmund. Of course that all depends on how well he performs next season in the English top flight.

Truth be told though I think they should do well next season. I don’t want to jinx the Yorkshire side but I think they’ll be safe. They need to look towards the likes of Bournemouth, a side who came up but didn’t lose their identity, that actually had a style of play. Too many clubs come up and look like they don’t have a plan when they play and inevitably drop straight back down. Fingers crossed for the Terriers they can avoid that outcome.

~ Anyone who enjoyed this please follow me on Twitter @ThePenaltyKing1 or like me on Facebook at ~

Cheers for reading.


  1. Nice article. As a Town fan it's nice to know we are appreciated, even begrudgingly. Good luck next season......beat leeds twice please.

  2. I don't think that creating chances was a problem for Town last season. What we lacked was a top level striker. Wells is improving, and has potential, but he is yet to terrify defenses consistently. We created enough to beat Wednesday and Reading in normal time. Not that many, but enough given that the playoff games were always going to be tight. Good luck for next season.

  3. Good read, and pretty accurate, other than the chances created paragraph. We created absolutely shit loads, the minus goals total has been grossly misinterpreted, understandably, by many and we will be an advantage to us when the new season starts.

  4. You forgot Kasey Palmer as an influential loan player.

    Good luck next season (as my Brother in Law is an Owl).

  5. Excellent article, great read! Wagner really is something special & with some extra quality signings plus tieing the likes of Mooy, Brown down to permanent deals, I genuinely feel we can shock afew teams in the premier league. Swansea went up with a strong Spanish influence, a philosophy, a local owner with the best interests of the club at heart & we should look to emulate them. Obviously it's going to be tough but our team show no fear & never give up, no team will enjoy coming to the JSS, even the big boys will find it tough, it's how tactically astute we are away which will be key.

    Anyway, thanks for your kind words, best of luck for Wednesday next season, hopefully you'll be joining us next season & not swapping places :)